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Kneebody @ The Broad Stage 2/11/17. Photo by Derrick K. Lee, Esq.(@Methodman13) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Kneebody @ The Broad Stage 2/11/17. Photo by Derrick K. Lee, Esq.(@Methodman13) for www.BlurredCulture.com.

Jazz is ever changing. With its roots planted deep in the innovations of improvisation, jazz musicians find inspiration from every genre of music and face of culture. Perhaps that’s why Los Angeles’ jazz scene is burgeoning. In a city as culturally diverse as Los Angeles, with its multitudes of ethnic enclaves, it can hardly be a surprise that its current crop of jazz players as of late has been pushing boundaries and gaining global recognition with their distinctive approach to the genre. From Kamasi Washington to Atomic Ape to Terrace Martin … artists such as these each push the boundaries of jazz, infusing different styles and influences that they are drawn to. The Grammy nominated outfit Kneebody is no different.

Formed in 2001, Kneebody consists of Adam Benjamin on keyboards, Shane Endsley on Trumpet, Ben Wendel on Tenor Sax, Kaveh Rastegar on bass and Nate Wood on drums. For the past year, they have been touring in support of a collaborative album with electronic artist Daedalus, “Kneedalus”. The band has its origins in the city of Santa Monica, and on this evening, in advance of the release of their latest effort, “Anti-Hero”, returned to their roots to entertain and mystify a hometown crowd.

This quintet’s sonics are kinetic and exciting. Blending elements of jazz, rock and funk, it’s by no means “traditional” jazz. In fact, I would imagine that traditionalists … let’s just be blunt … the aged … would probably be less inclined to enjoy their music than those who are not beholden to the past. As I listened to them perform, I found my head bouncing violently to hard hitting bass lines on several occasions, with my feet longing to dance like I used to when I heard Brand New Heavies jams circa 90s. Needless to say, I felt a bit confined in the beautiful theater’s seats.

Each of the players onstage demonstrated their musical acuity with a deceptive ease. The way each player gave and took from one another, never stepping on another player’s melodic line, one could sense the innate bond between each member with every note played.

And perhaps that was the highlight of the performance for me. High caliber players  playing with one another is always a special treat, however a performance elevates to an otherworldly level when those players actually share a musical soul/brain while playing. Watching the five gentlemen on stage, I could tell that was the case. Adam, Shane, Kaveh, Ben and Nate were playing better than a well-oiled machine, reveling in the shared joy of playing for their hometown mere blocks away from the shuttered venue where they first played together many years ago. A homecoming in the truest sense.

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